Monday, March 30, 2009

Reading: Elmwood warehouse to become largest film studio east of Mississippi River - Breaking News from New Orleans - Times-Picayune -

This is less than five minutes away from the house where I grew up! Goooood catch.

Elmwood warehouse to become largest film studio east of Mississippi River - Breaking News from New Orleans - Times-Picayune -

This weekend: The Tulane Environmental Law Summit!

I am very excited about this weekend! The Tulane Environmental Law Society has put together an unbelievable lineup of speakers, activities and panels for this weekend's Summit. From Mike Tidwell, renowned author of Bayou Farewell (an absolute must-read if you haven't already) and others, to great panels on pressing issues like the future of LA's oil and gas & the dead zone in the Gulf, to important speakers such as the president of Global Green and the newly appointed (New Orleanian) head of the EPA.

A list of the summit's attendees would read like a "Who's Who" in Louisiana environmental law, with everyone from important coastal scientists like Dr. John Day, to (hopefully!) the new head of the Louisiana Governor's Office of Coastal Activities, Garret Graves. And I know for a fact that many amazing lawyers and others will be in attendance that don't even have their names on the program. Also, I hear that the play put on by the Tulane Law Students is one of the most surprising highlights!!!

Best of all, the Summit is now free for ALL law students! Even for us Tigers, who will bring a small but proud contingent to represent our school and support our Tulane counterparts. Thanks for all you guys' hard work!! I'm super excited!

Finally, isn't their fleur de lis graphic amazing? Check out all info about the summit here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Funday: Trombone Shorty

In case you didn't know, Trombone Shorty is the future of New Orleans music. And the freaking MAN. Real name Troy Andrews, this guy is an incredible trombonist, trumpeteer, and entertainer. He and his band fuse New Orleans jazz sounds with the new hip hop, funk and many other genres.

(video introduction)

The first time I saw him was outside at Satchmo Fest (free outdoors festival in New Orleans). First I was at another stage, enjoying a brass band. But my Dad walked over to Trombone Shorty's stage for a couple of minutes, and then came back to us insisting that we move to his stage. Of course I'm rolling my eyes, like what can be better than a traditional New Orleans brass band?

Well, no offense to any awesome brass band, but Trombone Shorty is probably the best live act I have ever seen. I have never seen a crowd so pumped. People were jumping and dancing. Did I mention it was during the day in the dead of summer in New Orleans (late July) and we were standing in the sun? Beads of sweat were pouring down everyone's faces and people of all ages were jumping up and down like maniacs. The following clips do not begin to convey- but I must try- the incredible showmanship, musicianship, and energy that Trombone Shorty brings to his live performances. This guy is just 23 and he is already being hailed by Marsalis-es and the like and is performing all over the world at prestigious festivals and with first class acts.

He is making New Orleans music for a new generation. Keep your eye on him.
Here's his site. Enjoy the clips.

Outdoor concert.

Doing a jazz solo

w/ Bonerama


Friday, March 27, 2009

A good article to kick off the weekend!

New Orleans, On the Rise, Is Getting Its Brews Back -

Prayers go up to North Dakota and down to Lafourche and them...

My heart is with the people of Fargo and surrounding areas, as they fight the rising red river in the cold.

...and also with the people of Lafourche who awoke to flooding and everyone in LA who suffered wind damage from the recent severe thunderstorms. Including our friends who had a tree fall on their house in Baton Rouge.

Red River rises well above flood stage, forces evacuations in Fargo, N.D. - Breaking News from New Orleans - Times-Picayune -

Good works in LA: The Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra's conservatory program

Check out my fiance and some of his friends in the Baton Rouge Advocate yesterday:

What? You can't read the article from there? Well, here it is online. And here's a picture. You can see our friend Isabel helping a student in the front, and you can see Raul halfway cut off in the background by that same student.

Raul, Isabel, Joanna, and other graduate student friends of mine at LSU and other city musicians work in tandem with Ron Berhimgham, the artistic director of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, to bring violin lessons to a select group of students at Children's Charter in Baton Rouge. The students meet three times a week for two hours each session to pluck and learn. In just the course of this school year, these students have made enormous progress.

The project is, as the article indicates, modeled off of an extremely successful program that now exists in Venezuela. Bringing music to students of this age encourages brain development in logic and math as well as the development of discipline, team work, leadership, commitment, and all that other good stuff. Plus, putting instruments in the hands of Louisianians is always a good idea, as history shows.

As I understand it, the idea of this Baton Rouge project was always to slowly transition from mostly public funding to mostly private sponsors, while expanding the "conservatory" concept to more instruments and more schools. However, due to the economic situation, it appears that the transition will have to occur more quickly. So if you know any generous Baton Rouge-ians, either businesses or individuals, who would like to sponsor the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra conservatory program, send them here and encourage them to talk to Ron Bermingham.

To Ron and all my friends- I am so proud of you guys and all of the hard work you have done to make this possible!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tough Choices Profile #1: Lafitte

On Tuesday, the Corps of Engineers held a public meeting for review of particular alignments for the hurricane levee system being considered. I assume this refers to the 100 year levee system but the T-P's article doesn't specify. Most of the possible levee alignments leave the town of Lafitte outside of the major levee system, although a smaller levee could always be created for them. On Tuesday nearly 200 of Lafitte's 8000 residents showed up to a Corps meeting clamoring to be included within the levee system.

For your reference, here is Lafitte.

View Larger Map

As you can see, Lafitte is far below the metropolitan area (which ends basically where it says "Marrero"). Lafitte, a town in Jefferson Parish that is named after Jean Lafitte- a pirate who fought valiantly for the US in the Battle of New Orleans- is known for it's great fishing, seafood, and culture. Unfortunately, we can not afford to put Lafitte- and every other such community- behind a massive flood system. And here's why:

Truth be told, not just Lafitte but all of Southern Louisiana is very vulnerable to erosion, subsidence, flooding and hurricanes. It will always be an unnatural battle to try to create security from flooding when you live on a Delta so close to the coast. Most people agree, however, that despite the risk, the benefits of preserving coastal Louisiana make the flood protection projects and coastal restoration efforts "worth it."

I tend to subscribe to Oliver Houck's (Tulane Environmental Law Professor) basic vision for New Orleans and coastal Louisiana. We should build levees that are relatively small in geographic range and focused on specific population concentrations. But we should also realize that although levees are powerful tools, they have serious downfalls. (Check out my post on the Limitations of Levees). Extending the major levee system to outlying towns such as Lafitte only makes the whole region more vulnerable and the system more difficult to maintain. Fortunately, they are not the only gun in our arsenal to protect us from hurricanes. We must pour our efforts into preserving the coastal wetlands, which act as a powerful buffer for storms.

Now, you tell a community of hard-working people with centuries-old culture that they can't be part of a big levee system. It's hard, I know it. But these are the tough choices that must be made. Much of the opportunity to make these tough choices has been missed, as leaders failed to make comprehensive plans for metro New Orleans and other areas in the wake of Katrina and Rita. We can't afford to miss more opportunities to make coastal Louisiana sustainable.

So what is Lafitte's future? Hopefully, it's a rich one. If we as a state decide that communities like Lafitte are important for economic and cultural reasons, then we should advocate various protections for the people who live there-- accepting that they bear a higher risk than us and do necessary work in industries such as seafood and oil and gas that couldn't be done further north. That means supporting good land use planning and small flood projects- possibly including smaller "ring" levees. And it means supporting these communities if they do flood-- supporting them financially, helping them to rebuild smarter, and giving them options for relocation. Of course all of this must go hand in hand with massive coastal restoration efforts if we are to have any chance of long-term security whatsoever.

Those are my two proverbial cents on this heart-wrenching issue. Your commentary is encouraged!

The Limitations of Levees

Many well-meaning advocates of Southern Louisiana push for massive levee projects expanding across Louisiana far out to protect small towns way down on the coast. I agree that we need some big levees, especially around already concentrated populations in lower risk areas. However, any discussions of levees should include considerations of their downfalls.

1) Levees are very expensive to build and also very expensive to maintain. A poorly built or maintained levee- as we saw in Katrina- is like not having levee at all! The larger the levee, the harder the fall if it is compromised at any one point.

2) Levees encourage development. The more "protection" we build in flood-prone areas, the more we actually encourage people to move there and to build their lives there on a sense of false security. This is probably not wise in extremely marshy, low-lying areas so close to the Gulf. Undeveloped coastal areas should probably stay that way, supporting only the existing population necessary to do the work of coastal industries.

3) Levees kill wetlands. The more levees you put down, the more cut off outside wetlands are from river water and sediment that builds them. As wetlands die, communities are closer and closer to open ocean and no protection other than the levee from storms.


4) Levees harm wetland ecology! Shrimp and other yummy seafood need to go from salty water nurseries to more freshwater areas in their lifespan. If you prevent this by building a levee across wetlands, you endanger all of that good seafood that keeps the people of coastal Louisiana enjoying life there in the first place.

You can't have it all-- you can't save the wetlands, build a huge levee system surrounding every small town, and live like you did before Katrina. Even if it could be done, Congress isn't going to fund it in the forseeable future; the American taxpayer won't tolerate it. You have to find a realistic balance.

If even conservative estimates are correct, the Cajun coast is most certainly going to suffer some loss in this coming century. The solution to preserving this culture is not to build a giant wall around every house that has been built. No, the solution is for strong-willed leaders to make the smart, tough decisions that achieve the most sustainability possible for the entire region.

Yesterday I asked an expert in land-use planning the following question: "Where will we get the political capital to make these tough choices? How can we grow the spine to tell tax-paying, hard-working people that their area is just too risky or that a huge levee is not the answer?"

That expert's answer? "Well, that's the big question."

My suspicion is that we if ever get that political capital, it will be through persistent education of our communities. So spread the word.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Know about LA's great outdoors? Take this quiz!

Times Picayune, March 22

It's a great quiz that checks your knowledge of coastal issues and fishies and other good stuff.

If you make over 85% you get to add -eaux to your last name.
BEWARE: if you get under 75%, you become a Texan...

(Nothing against Texas. I love Texas. But nowhere near as much as Texans love Texas.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pragmatic Activism for the Wetlands: Thank you King Milling

R. King Milling is the president of Whitney National Bank in Louisiana and a prominent businessman regionally. Now he has been awarded the Loving Cup, a century-old award given by the Times-Picayune for unselfish community service, because of his tireless dedication to coastal restoration.

Milling should serve as an example to us all- especially to business people and others who do not work in coastal restoration. Read the praise in the article below heaped on him by major voices on coastal restoration like Sidney Coffee and Mark Davis. Then listen to his own reasons for his activism:

"I just loooooove plants, especially in our marshes! I think we should sacrifice capitalist interests for them no matter what the costs to our community."

Just kidding. These are his pragmatic words:

"This is not just about the environment. It's about culture, commerce and survival."
"It doesn't take a genius to understand the infrastructure is at risk, the future is at risk. That's what we will lose if we don't do anything. I think that used to shock some people, but it doesn't anymore."

King Milling is not a tree hugger. He is a banker- certainly not interested in losing money. He knows how urgent this issue is for everyone in Louisiana. It doesn't matter if you work in retail, the service industry, education, technology, health care, shipping, oil and gas, seafood, agriculture-- any industry-- we should all know that the health of our coast is our primary measure of the safety of our population and the security of any business from at least Baton Rouge on south. Every year, we sit closer and closer to the open ocean. There may still be controversy over climate change, but there isn't over coastal loss here: we've lost a Delaware amount of land. Now we can either be sitting ducks, or we can all work tirelessly to lessen the risk. Anytime you need a reminder of what that risk is, go here. Or ask King Milling.

Coastal restoration advocate King Milling wins T-P Loving Cup - Breaking News from New Orleans - Times-Picayune -

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good Deal (Perhaps): Expanded New Orleans Homebuying Assistance

At least 75% of the work force is now eligible for homebuying assistance in New Orleans through the city's Finance Authority.

The program can be used by people who make up to 20% more than the median New Orleanian's income to buy a first home or renovate their current one. For a two person household, that's $57,000. Man, maybe I should look into property....

Anyways, up to $65,000 of 0% interest soft-second mortgage and $10,000 of closing cost assistance are available to applicants out of a $27 million dollar pot.

One slightly huge caveat:

Each one of the "Housing Opportunity Zones"- where most of the assistance will be given- flooded during Katrina, at least to my knowledge. On the map I see areas in Mid City, Lakeview, New Orleans East, and off the Earhart Expressway, just to name a few.

Some areas took in only a little water, but others were severely flooded. This concerns me, as does any encouragement of development in floodzones without serious land use guidelines.

Of course, in areas with only moderate flooding, elevation of homes is completely feasible-- not to mention the traditional & smart way of building in NOLA!

If anyone wants to clarify- here are the zones.

Thanks to KL for passing on the link!

Sources: New Orleans City Business; Finance Authority of New Orleans

Friday, March 20, 2009

Attn: Brad Pitt, Re: New Orleans accents

What Brad Pitt should have studied for Benjamin Button, instead of just taking on a silly Southern accent:

Circa 1983 goodness. LOL when she wants to "talk propah" she will. Same wit' mah mama.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Codofil TV Spots

Very cute commercials promoting French in Louisiana. Cajun french was squelched in Louisiana. My Granny tells stories about how they weren't allowed to speak it in school- they would be whipped (lighlty, I assume) by their teachers.

LIfe From The Bottom Of The Boot: CODIFIL TV Spots

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Biotechnology and Coastal Restoration: Can we have Chia Wetlands?

I am taking a biotechnology law course right now in law school, and I have often daydreamed- while we're talking about splicing plant dna for agriculture or human dna for medical treatments- that biotechnology might be applied in the coastal restoration context.

Why can't we have a Chia-wetland? I've learned that wetlands have a much higher ratio of vegetation to soil than most land, so just depositing sediment without active growth isn't as helpful. So I started imagining that someone could create Chia wetlands of modified native plants that would grow and take root quickly to supplement our sediment depositing. Very rough model:

Well it turns out, my idea wasn't a new one. The article below shows that the folks at the LSU Ag school have been researching it. However, the article I found is from 2003 and I haven't been able to turn up anymore sources. Anyone have any clues on whether this is still being looked into or is just a dead end?

Using Biotechnology for Coastal Restoration - 2003 | Louisiana Agriculture Magazine | Communications | LSU AgCenter

Recession Proof Louisiana...

Christian Moises with New Orleans City Business explores the claim that the New Orleans metro area- and LA in general- are recession proof. Apparently our state was the only one to post unemployment DROPS from December to January. Unfortunately the article can only offer speculation as to why:

"One theory could be that companies had to downsize after Katrina and have been working with skeleton crews ever since, so the only options are to either stay flat or add employees.

Another could be that — contrary to popular belief — doing business in New Orleans is a good thing and companies are willing to invest and commit to the region."

I personally don't know enough to even speculate-- anyone want to speculate for me? Or add another source to the table that might clarify?

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

a worthy cause

My friend Andrea is riding in the "Tour de Lis" to raise money for cancer research. If you have a little change you can support her here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Legislators!! Aren't we going to regulate eugenics?!?

All this fuss over abortion and stem cells, but clinics in the US are now offering sex, hair color and eye color selection services! This means picking one embryo over another and "discarding" the other choices. To me this is the ultimate "playing god" and hearkens back to Hitler and his desires for the Aryan race.

Is it so different if it's only individuals and not a nation that can pick what type of child is better the way I choose a compute or a car? Is anyone else distressed by this?

BBC NEWS | Health | Designer baby row over US clinic